Why direct marketing agencies have to change

This morning, Merkle announced the acquisition of an independent, Chicago-based, direct marketing agency, CFM Direct.  From Merkle’s perspective, the move bolsters their existing agency services and further strengthens their exposure in the financial services industry – CFM’s primary focus area.

But the move emphasizes an interesting trend in the direct marketing industry.  The lines between direct marketing agency and database marketing service provider are blurring.  Both are adding services or acquiring companies that boast the historical strengths of their opposite numbers.  On paper, their capabilities are beginning to look the same. 

But, they are still different beasts - one is creatively focused, the other operationally focused; one sells time, the other sells output; one is often tied to exclusivity, the other will sometimes work with all of the top firms in a given vertical; one demonstrates phenomenal account management and program management rigor, the other, well, doesn’t…

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